Canterbury United Pride 1
Auckland Football 0
National Women’s League
Saturday 08 December 2018
English Park, Christchurch
“The winner takes it all” blared from the car-radio on my ride to the game. An appropriately-titled song for this end of round-robin match between 2nd and 3rd, with the winner going through to the Final to meet Northern Lights.
This match was an intense battle played at a high tempo. Both teams featured players who had returned from international duty, U-17s and full Football Ferns. No thoughts of celebratory hangovers, and any fatigue was played through.
The Pride looked to transition into attack by quickly moving the ball to their forwards, with sharp passing to create chances. Out of possession, they chose their moments to press when Auckland tried to play their way from the back into the middle third. When Auckland did manage to get their dangerous players on the ball, the Canterbury defence who always seemed to have a player in a covering position. When Auckland went long, the Pride were confident in heading clear. The work rate of the Canterbury defensive unit was impressive.
In the 13th minute, Cody Taylor and Gabrielle Rennie played some quick passes to each other between centre and right, which ended up with Taylor powering a shot wide.
Between 15 and 20 minutes, Auckland had a series of corners and throw-ins, with the final corner headed cleared off the line by Tahlia Hermann-Watt.
Half-an-hour in came one of Auckland’s best chances. Paige Satchell surged into the penalty area, cut the ball back to Jade Parris, who placed her shot wide.
There was almost a Whitney Hepburn special soon after, but the Pride midfielder couldn’t repeat her long-range goal from last week at Capital as the ball dipped just over the bar.
Another Pride chance wasn’t long after, when Annalie Longo played in Cody Taylor, but Corinna Brown in the Auckland goal made one of many saves in the match.
The Pride made the breakthrough in the 38th minute. Hepburn pressed Grace Jale on the Canterbury left, forcing her to play backwards. A backpass was intercepted by Longo, who took the ball into the penalty area and attempted to curl a shot past a diving Brown. The keeper did well to get to the ball but could only parry it into the path of Rennie, who converted the chance from near-range. 1-0 to the Pride.
Auckland almost struck back straight-away. Vic Esson in the Pride goal tipped the ball over the bar from Tessa Leong. But the score remained 1-0.
In the second half, Auckland saw a lot of the ball, and placed Canterbury under much pressure, but couldn’t create many clear-cut chances. Through balls often rolled through to Esson, or a defender made a recovering tackle to put the ball out for a throw or corner.
Midway through the half, Parris took a free-kick from Auckland’s left and curled it around the wall to Esson’s near post. Esson pushed it wide for a corner.
The Pride created some chances that, had they put away, would have made the final few moments less nervy. With quarter hour remaining, Rennie forced a save out of Brown and shot the rebound wide via a deflection.
In the 87th minute, Jayda Stewart on as a sub won the ball and burst past a couple of Auckland defenders, she continued her run into the penalty area and around the goalkeeper, but her finish hit the post.
The fourth official held up a board indicating a minimum of 5 minutes additional time, as if by then Pride fans and management fingernails hadn’t quite been chewed down to the quick! Auckland continued to place pressure on the Pride and in 90+4 there was another goal-line clearance from a corner. The final whistle went, and a relieved Pride have made it through to another Final.
At the time of the Christchurch game’s final whistle, WaiBop were leading 1-0 in Hamilton v the Lights. If that result had stood, the Pride would have hosted the Final. But the Lights managed to turn it round to win 1-2, so will host the Final 1pm Sunday 16 December 2018 at Trusts Arena: Northern Lights v Canterbury United Pride.
The Pride have previously travelled to Northern and won the Final. You might remember this spectacular goal from 2013:
The 2018 Final will be another match where the winner will etc etc.
Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.